© Getty Images

Southern Vipers, led by Charlotte Edwards, won the title in 2016. © Getty Images

When England lifted the trophy after beating India in the Women’s World Cup final on July 24 in front of a packed Lord’s, the signs that women’s cricket was on the upturn were definitely noticeable. The euphoria lasted for days and hoping to build on that is the second edition of the Women’s Super League, the premier domestic women’s Twenty20 competition in England, that kicks off on Wednesday (August 10).

Six teams will battle it out over the course of three weeks to win the title that the Charlotte Edwards-led Southern Vipers secured in 2016. Here are some of the talking points ahead of the this year’s tournament.

More eyeballs for women’s cricket
The World Cup boasted of record broadcast numbers, massive crowds and a general rise in excitement. Global TV viewing audience numbers reached 50 million, an 80% increase in the viewing numbers from the 2013 World Cup final hosted by India. Sky Sports showed all the World Cup games on TV and reported 1.16 million people tuning in for the thrilling final at Lord’s, more than the men’s Champions Trophy final in June.

When Wisden India spoke to Georgia Adams, an England Academy player who plays for Southern Vipers, she mentioned that the second season of the WSL being scheduled right after the World Cup meant nearly two months of women’s cricket being shown on television, which was unprecedented. Sky Sports will also be broadcasting six WSL group matches, which will form double-headers with NatWest T20 Blast matches, along with Finals Day on September 1.

It’s an improvement from last year when the tournament was launched without any TV coverage, but in terms of viewership they have their work cut out with the English Premier League beginning on August 12 and Windies’ tour of England starting on August 17.

No Indians but a first Sri Lankan
After her exploits lit up the Women’s Big Bash League and her scintillating century blew away the Australians in the World Cup semifinal, Harmanpreet Kaur was all set to become the first Indian to feature in the WSL for Surrey Stars. However, a shoulder injury that occurred before the World Cup final ruled Harmanpreet out of the tournament, and South Africa’s Lizelle Lee was called up as her replacement.

Meanwhile, another centurion in the World Cup was eagerly snapped up by a WSL franchise. Chamari Athapaththu is set to become the first Sri Lankan to feature in the tournament after being picked as a replacement for Beth Mooney, the Australian opener, in the Yorkshire Diamonds squad. The flashy batter came to the fore after her record innings of 178 against Australia in a group match, which was the highest score by a batter in World Cup history.

Getting ready for the Ashes
During Harmanpreet’s innings in the World Cup semifinal, commentators remarked that the ease with which she scored against the Aussie bowlers was due to her experience in the Women’s Big Bash League. That’s enough reason for England and Australia players to keep a close eye on each other during the WSL with the Women’s Ashes, which will see the first women’s day-night Test in Sydney, coming up in December. Georgia Elwiss will be captaining Ellyse Perry and Elyse Villani in Loughborough Lightning, while Sarah Taylor will be keeping to Jess Jonassen in Lancashire Thunder. How much insider knowledge either party can glean from their experiences is anyone’s guess.

How far can the ECB go?
In the summer of 2015, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced a radical shake-up of the women’s domestic game with the launch of the WSL, and they had a 50-over competition with the same teams held before the start of the World Cup in June 2017. But in October 2016, they announced that they would look for another way to revamp the 50-over competition and mostly concentrate on expanding the WSL in the third edition.

The main focus will be on fitness and managing workload with the tournament beginning a little over two weeks after the end of the World Cup. Katherine Brunt, turning out for Yorkshire Diamonds, elaborated in an interview with Wisden India earlier how workload management has increased with the rise in competitive cricket, and the physical toll it took. Little wonder then that Anya Shrubsole, the star of England’s title win, will sit out her first two matches for Western Storm.

Fixtures
August 10 – Southern Vipers v Western Storm, Southampton**
August 11 – Yorkshire Diamonds v Lancashire Thunder, Leeds**
August 12 – Western Storm v Loughborough Lightning, Taunton**
August 13 – Surrey Stars v Yorkshire Diamonds, London**
August 15 – Loughborough Lightning v Southern Vipers, Derby**
August 16 – Lancashire Thunder v Surrey Stars, Manchester**
August 18 – Loughborough Lightning v Yorkshire Diamonds, Loughborough
August 20 – Lancashire Thunder v Loughborough Lightning, Blackpool
August 20 – Southern Vipers v Surrey Stars, Southampton
August 20 – Yorkshire Diamonds v Western Storm, York
August 23 – Lancashire Thunder v Southern Vipers, Liverpool
August 23 – Surrey Stars v Western Storm, London
August 26 – Surrey Stars v Loughborough Lightning, London
August 26 – Western Storm v Lancashire Thunder, Bristol
August 26 – Southern Vipers v Yorkshire Diamonds, Arundel
September 1 – Finals Day, Hove
** double-header 

WSL Squads
Lancashire Thunder
Danielle Hazell (capt), Sarah Taylor, Kate Cross, Amy Satterthwaite (o), Jess Jonassen (o), Lea Tahuhu (o), Sophie Ecclestone, Emma Lamb, Eve Jones, Ellie Threlkeld, Natasha Miles, Natalie Brown, Alice Dyson, Rachel Dickinson, Ella Telford.

Loughborough Lightning
Georgia Elwiss (capt), Amy Jones, Beth Langston, Ellyse Perry (o), Kristen Beams (o), Elyse Villani (o), Paige Scholfield, Thea Brookes, Georgia Boyce, Becky Grundy, Sonia Odedra, Marie Kelly, Sarah Glenn, Lucy Higham, Abi Freeborn.

Southern Vipers
Charlotte Edwards (capt), Tash Farrant, Danielle Wyatt, Suzie Bates (o), Mignon du Preez (o), Hayley Matthews (o), Georgia Adams, Katie George, Linsey Smith, Ellen Burt, Arran Brindle, Tara Norris, Izzy Collis, Carla Rudd, Charlie Dean.

Surrey Stars
Natalie Sciver (capt), Tammy Beaumont, Laura Marsh, Alex Hartley, Marizanne Kapp (o), Lizelle Lee (o), Rene Farrell (o), Bryony Smith, Sophia Dunkley, Grace Gibbs, Aylish Cranstone, Hannah Jones, Naomi Dattani, Kirstie White, Cordelia Griffith.

Western Storm
Heather Knight (capt), Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Holly Huddleston (o), Stafanie Taylor (o), Rachel Priest (o), Georgia Hennessy, Sophie Luff, Freya Davies, Danielle Gibson, Claire Nicholas, Lauren Parfitt, Jodie Dibble, Amara Carr, Alice Macleod.

Yorkshire Diamonds
Lauren Winfield (capt), Katherine Brunt, Jenny Gunn, Chamari Athapaththu (o), Sune Luus (o), Sophie Devine (o), Hollie Armitage, Alice Davidson-Richards, Anna Nicholls, Katie Levick, Steph Butler, Laura Crofts, Teresa Graves, Maddie Walsh, Katie Thompson.

(o) overseas player